The MIT Laboratory of Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence has presented new advances in the emerging field of soft robots, a new generation of machines that in the future will leave behind those typical metal bodies full of cables and chips in favor of a structure more similar to that of living organisms.

The robotics industry is growing unstoppably and advances in Artificial Intelligence will mark a point of no return. So much so that the world’s leading experts have been warning for years of implications of all kinds that will have in society. It is believed that 800 million workers will be replaced by robots in 2030 and this will only be the beginning.

In advanced countries up to a third of the active population will have to look for new jobs. Or simply completely change the production model that we know. The question is clear, what will humans do when robots do (almost) all the work?

Soft robots from MIT

The latest advances in robotics will further impact society. If the majority of robots so far are located in production plants, logistics management or industrial and agricultural fields, using machines made of robust but rigid materials, soft robotics is inspired by living organisms and offer numerous benefits in its versatile functionality. The idea of ​​any creator is to bring them closer to humans also in their physical functioning.

Obviously, soft robots are able to operate much more delicately than typical rigid ones, but so far they lacked the ability to perceive what kind of elements they were interacting with. To overcome these limitations, MIT researchers have equipped their robots with sensors, cameras, and software, allowing them to “see and classify” a wide variety of objects and act accordingly.

“We want to allow ourselves to see the world feeling it,” describes the director of CSAIL. In practice, robots will be able to “feel” objects, apply the precise force according to their type and collect from a glass milk bottle to a fried potato. Without breaking them, it is understood.

Unlike other soft touch sensors, MIT developments will be able to be manufactured quickly, fit current clamps, and allow for sensitivity and reliability. The first areas of application are manufacturing or logistics environments, but as we said it will only be the beginning because this soft robotics aims to revolutionize this industry.

MIT will present the developments at the 2020 International Robotics and Automation Conference to be held at an online event. They are great advances although they may not seem like it, since “feeling” objects is a huge difficulty for a robot. Soft robotics is in its infancy and in a few decades it will revolutionize traditional robotics based on molecular manipulation and an approach to the functioning of living beings. Mentally through Artificial Intelligence, but also physically.


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